The most recent helpline data covers the period from July to September 2023. There were just over 20,000 contacts made to the network, which is a slight decrease from the previous reporting period. It is important to note, however, that this reporting period covers the school holidays in most countries where there is traditionally a reduction in the number of calls, and this has been seen over the past few years. Despite the decrease, there is an overall upward trend in the number of contacts that are made to Insafe helplines.
As usual, teens (aged 12-18) are the largest group who are using helpline services, and 57 per cent of contacts were from them during this period, which is a reduction of two percentage points compared to the previous quarter. This group tend to be among the most prolific users of social media platforms, online games and other apps and as such can find themselves in challenging situations where they need to reach out for help and support. There is a global focus on the impact that technology can have on the mental health and well-being of children and young people, and, indeed, this was discussed at the recent Safer Internet Forum held in November. Parents and teachers make up around 37 per cent of contacts, a three-percentage point increase which may reflect the fact that children were home from school and possibly spending more time online, which parents were more aware of and concerned about.
Contacting a helpline by phone continues to be the most popular means of reaching out, and there was very little change between this reporting period and the previous one. Increasingly, helplines are seeking to provide a variety of different methods of contact for those needing their services, including, where appropriate, the use of artificial intelligence to provide some answers to common concerns.
Almost 14 per cent of contacts were about cyberbullying, and this category continues to be the most common reason for contacting an Insafe helpline, with figures for this quarter showing a very slight increase on the previous reporting period. Contacts relating to love, relationships and sexuality (online) accounted for almost nine per cent and similar percentage related to e-crime. Reports relating to online sexual coercion and exploitation of children (which used to be referred to as sextortion) accounted for 7.5 per cent of all contacts, with around 1,860 contacts relating to this. Six per cent of contacts were about suicide, suicidal thoughts or online content relating to this.
Insafe contacts are now grouped into four main areas:
- Being online (incorporating advertising and commercialism, data privacy, fake news, media literacy/education, potentially harmful content, self-harm, suicide and technical settings). This area accounted for 37 per cent of all contacts.
- Online violence (incorporating cyberbullying, e-crime, hate speech and radicalisation/terrorism) and this accounted for 24 per cent of all contacts.
- Online activities/relations (incorporating excessive use, gaming, love, relationships, sexuality (online) online reputation and pornography) which accounted for 26 per cent of all calls.
- Online sexual abuse and violence (incorporating grooming, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images (NCSII) and the online sexual coercion and extortion of minors (which used to be referred to as sextortion)). This area accounted for 13 per cent of all contacts made.
The table below shows the percentage of contacts assigned to each category.
Helplines also record where the potential harm occurred. 82 per cent takes place on social media platforms with a further 14 per cent on messaging services. Only four per cent of the potential harm takes place in gaming environments.
|Reason for contacting helpline
|Percentage of contacts
|0.1 per cent
|0.3 per cent
|0.7 per cent
|0.8 per cent
|1.8 per cent
|2.6 per cent
|3.5 per cent
|3.7 per cent
|3.8 per cent
|3.8 per cent
|4.0 per cent
|6.1 per cent
|6.3 per cent
|6.7 per cent
|Potentially harmful content
|7.3 per cent
|7.5 per cent
|8.8 per cent
|Love, relationship, sexuality(online)
|8.9 per cent
|9.5 per cent
|13.8 per cent
Find out more about country-based helpline services, operating as part of the national Safer Internet Centre, at www.betterinternetforkids.eu/sic. Find news updates on helpline services at www.betterinternetforkids.eu/practice/helplines.